Have Fun Trying to Reach the Poles of Inaccessibility
Geography nuts have located the hardest place to get to on every continent and beyond.
Everyone wants to get away, but how far can you actually get?
Geography has the answer in the world’s poles of inaccessibility. These remote points are said to be the hardest points to reach on the globe, based on the fact that they are furthest from a point of access—that is, a coast. There is one on nearly every continent (Europe and Asia are considered together), and even a couple out at sea for those who want to get as far away from land as possible. Here is the location of each major point of inaccessibility on Earth for those looking to truly get out there.
The Northern Pole of Inaccessibility
Otherwise known as the Arctic Pole of Inaccessibility, this remote spot in the far north is different from the North Pole, which is the northernmost point on the planet. The Northern Pole of Inaccessibility, located a few hundred miles away, is the northernmost point that is furthest from land (since there is no landmass that far north).
The inaccessible pole, like the North Pole, is located on the shifting pack ice of the northern Arctic Sea, so a permanent physical location is impossible to define. In 2013, the latest location was calculated using the most accurate satellite data available, giving a spot over 133 miles away from the previously acknowledged point.
Explorer Jim McNeill has tried to reach the Northern Pole of Inaccessibility multiple times (twice to the outdated coordinates), but met with calamity during each attempt. In 2003, he had to abandon a trip after flesh-eating bacteria attacked a blister on his ankle. As of yet, no one has been able to get there, truly making it one of the most inaccessible places on the planet.
The Eurasian Point of Inaccessibility
Maybe the most contested point of inaccessibility is the spot on the Eurasian continent that is furthest from the ocean. This is due to a little Russian waterway known as the Gulf of Ob.
The Gulf of Ob is a small bay that feeds the Ob River from the Arctic Ocean. Originally, this feature was considered to be a part of the river and not the coast, so the continent’s furthest point from any coast was considered to be located north of the city of Ürümqi in Northwest China. However, a 2007 study (which calculated many of the points of inaccessibility) argued that the gulf, which reaches about 600 miles inland before narrowing, constitutes part of the ocean.
This new calculation pushed the exact pole closer to Ürümqi, and posited two different possible poles (EPIA1 and EPIA2) depending on whether the Arabian Sea or the North China Sea are used to measure the distance inland. All of the poles sit in and around the Gurbantünggüt Desert, near the Kazakhstan-China border.
No matter which of the three points one chooses to accept as the true pole, good luck getting there—each one of them is over 1,500 miles into the interior of the continent.
The North American Pole of Inaccessibility
Not every pole of inaccessibility is found in some far-flung desert or freezing ocean. The North American Pole of Inaccessibility is located just outside of a small town in South Dakota.
The remote spot is found in the hilly wilderness between the towns of Allen and Kyle in southwestern South Dakota. The pole is unmarked, but can be found in a gully near a small copse of trees. The spot sits over 1,000 miles from the nearest coast, making it literally the most Middle American place in Middle America. The land where the pole is found is owned by the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, but there is no one living within a few miles of the pole itself.
According to a 2010 census, nearby Allen had a population of just over 400 people and was one of the poorest places in America. So while the inaccessible pole might not be quite as remote as those poles in other continents, it is far from a heavily inhabited destination.
The South American Pole of Inaccessibility
Moving down to South America, the dead center and most inaccessible point on the whole continent can be found in the Brazilian wilderness.
The South American Point of Inaccessibility is found near some fields outside of the town of Arenápolis. The pole, which is around 940 miles from the nearest coast, can be found in a forest that sits in the middle of three lonely stretches of highway, making the pole itself a bit challenging to get to even if you’ve got a car.
Like its North American cousin, this pole is unmarked.
The African Pole of Inaccessibility
Smack in the middle of Africa, the African Pole of Inaccessibility marks not just the hardest part of the continent to reach, but one of its more politically contentious border intersections.
Located near (relatively) to the town of Obo in the Central African Republic (CAR), the pole is quite close to the tripoint meeting of the CAR, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan. The inaccessible point lies over 1,100 miles from the nearest coast in the midst of mountainous, tropical terrain. It is unmarked, sitting, according to satellite view, in the middle of a dense forest.
It is, in part, this inaccessibility that has made the three countries surrounding the pole so historically unstable. The regions are so far from the coast that developing them has been a challenge.
The Australian Pole of Inaccessibility
Though located in a continent with a sparsely populated, hard to traverse interior, the Australian Pole of Inaccessibility is maybe the easiest one to reach in the whole world.
Australia’s remotest point is only around 570 miles from the nearest coast. It is found in the Northern Territory, on a long stretch of dirt road between the community of Papunya and the waters of Lake Lewis.
There is yet again no permanent marker on the spot, but with the aid of a GPS, you could drive to it.
The Southern Pole of Inaccessibility
The location of the southernmost pole of inaccessibility is somewhat debatable depending on how one chooses to measure it.
The central consideration in calculating the Southern Pole of Inaccessibility (located 500 miles away from the South Pole) is whether the distance is to be measured from the edge of the Antarctic landmass, or from the edge of the various ice shelves that extend from it. The generally accepted point (-76.3151944,49.4325576) was established in 1958 when a Russian research station was built on the spot. The small base was equipped with a radio shack, an electrical shed, and small hut for the researchers. The site was marked with a bust of Lenin set on a pedestal, facing in the direction of Moscow.
After decades at the freezing pole, only a single building remains, and snow has all but covered the bust. But even today, Lenin’s bald pate can still be found peeking out of the snow at one of the most remote places in the world.
Otherwise known as the Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility, Point Nemo, in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, is over 1,400 nautical miles from any land. There is nothing to be found at the distant oceanic point but water and solitude. The three closest bits of land (Ducie Island, Maher Island, and Easter Island) are themselves pretty remote.
There are no commercial ways to get to Point Nemo, nor expeditions there. It’s just out there, acting as a beacon for those that can’t get far enough away.
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